Wollaston's Early Critics

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Some of the most forceful objections to William Wollaston's moral theory come from his early critics, namely, Thomas Bott (1688-1754), Francis Hutcheson (1694-1746), and John Clarke of Hull (1687-1734). These objections are little known, while the inferior objections of Hume, Bentham, and later prominent critics are familiar. This fact is regrettable. For instance, it impedes a robust understanding of eighteenth-century British ethics; also, it fosters a questionable view as to why Wollaston's theory, although at first well received, soon faded in esteem among philosophers. This paper gives Wollaston's early critics some of the attention they deserve. It reconstructs some of their objections to Wollaston's philosophy, addresses replies to those objections, and shows that despite some minor flaws, the objections succeed. A fact that becomes clear is that Wollaston's philosophy had suffered devastating criticism years before Hume wrote anything against it.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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